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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 9:17 a.m., Monday, February 4, 2008

American Samoa Democrats have Super Tuesday role

For The Associated Press

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — They can't vote for president in the general election, but American Samoa Democrats have a modest role on Super Tuesday in choosing their party's nominee.

The island territory has six votes in the Democratic National Convention. Three of those votes will be divided among six party leaders who are superdelegates. The other three will be decided in a territory-wide caucus on Tuesday.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is supported by four of the superdelegates, but not all of them have a full vote on the floor. Two other superdelegates have endorsed Sen. Barack Obama.

Despite the time in the Pacific island territory being three hours earlier than the West Coast, the presidential caucus is to be held early enough for results of the final three delegate votes to get to the U.S. mainland while some other state primaries are still being counted.

The three delegate votes will be allocated to either Clinton or Obama, according to the percentage of the caucus vote won by each candidate. More actual convention delegates will be elected, however, each with a fraction of a vote.

The superdelegate votes go to Gov. Togiola T. A. Tulafono and three other unpledged superdelegates who have said they'll support Clinton and to Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, the territory's nonvoting delegate to Congress, and Democratic National Committee member DNC Therese Hunkin, who support Obama.

Party leaders say Tulafono and Faleomavaega each will get a full vote at the convention, while the other four superdelegates will split the remaining single vote.

That gives Clinton 1 3/4 superdelegates and Obama 1 1/4 going in to Tuesday's caucus vote.

"I believe in Senator Hillary Clinton, because she talks like one of us and she inspires confidence, warmth, and trust for all people," Tulafono said in a statement released by the Clinton campaign. The governor remained hospitalized in Honolulu, recovering from an illness. He is a national co-chairman of Asian America and Pacific Islander for Hillary.

Local party chairman Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde said he expects "a very good turnout" of registered Democrats at the caucus because of high interest in the presidential election.

"Perhaps the most exciting issue at hand is the historical moment in our history where a woman and an African American are running for president," Langkilde, a Clinton supporter, said in an interview Friday.

Among the Clinton delegates are American Samoa Democratic National Committee members Deanna Fuimaono and Nathaniel Savali. Others who have announced support for Clinton include two former party heads, Dr. Oreta Togafau and Senate President Lolo M. Moliga.

Moliga, who led the party when the territory was first included in a Democratic National Convention in 1984, wrote Clinton pledging his support.

"Your public recognition of the importance of the interests of the Territories of the United States, with special acknowledgment of American Samoa, in one of the staged public forums, not only provided us with a sense of hope, but also revealed your character relative to your commitment to ensuring that principle of equity will be consistently applied to the treatment of all Americans, irrespective of ancestral delineation," Moliga wrote.

Faleomavaega, an early Obama supporter, said, "I have nothing against Hillary and respect her very much for her leadership and services to our country, but I believe Obama's style of leadership and his ability to bring people from all different walks of life and political persuasions is what our country needs right now."

Faleomavaega, in an e-mail from Auckland, New Zealand, said, "The politics of divisiveness and winning at all costs is not the way to conduct our nation's business."

He also noted that Obama was born in Hawai'i with roots that are "very much part of our Asia-Pacific region experience," which he said is badly needed in Washington.